In writing and typography, hyphens and dashes are often used interchangeably. The situation is not helped by the fact that there are two types of dashes, a long em dash (—) and a short en dash (–). They may look similar, but they have different use cases and should be used correctly.
|en dash||alt 0150||alt/option + hyphen|
|em dash||alt 0151||alt/option + shift + hyphen|
Here’s the difference between hyphens, and en/em dashes:
- Hyphens (-) are used for multipart words and for words that break into multiple lines. For example: “left-click” and “old-fashioned” are multipart words. Some browsers can automatically hyphenate words (line break) by using the CSS
hyphens: auto;property. Although as of July 2020, automatic hyphenation is only fully compatible in Firefox & Safari.
- En dashes (–), also known as a short dash, are used for ranges of values, e.g. from 1980–2020 (which could also be written as 1980 to 2020).
- Em dashes (—), also known as a long dash, are used to make a pause in a sentence, followed by a strong point, in a situation where using a comma is too weak. For example: “nowadays being tech-savvy is an advantage to get a job at most places — in the future, it will be mandatory.”
Note: em dashes (—) can either be used with no space between the dash and the next and previous word or with a single space on each side of the dash:
- Em dash—with no space between dash and words.
- Em dash — with a single space between dash and words.
Both are correct, just be consistent with the style you choose.